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Isle of Man TT: Dunlop upbeat as Hutchinson raises bar

 

By Roy Harris

Isle of Man TT practice was once again curtailed last night when the opening session was red flagged just as the front runners completed a lap.

The red flag was two-fold - Lincoln ace Dave Sellars was uninjured after a crash at the Gooseneck and the weather was closing in fast.

For the second night running, the fastest speed was recorded by Ian Hutchinson when he took the Tyco BMW around the 37-and-three-quarter-mile Mountain Circuit in 17 minutes and 33.038 seconds, a speed of 128.987mph, the fastest lap to date this week.

Arch-rival Michael Dunlop was 14 seconds slower on the Bennetts Suzuki at a speed of 127.228mph in second and Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki) came in third at 126.157mph.

As the riders were flagged off, Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson announced that a reserve plan to allow the riders to race full speed to Ramsey from where they would be escorted by travelling marshals over the mountain to the end of the lap would be implemented. Riders would then return to Parc Ferme awaiting the marshals' return to Ramsey via Onchan, before being allowed to go flat out to Ramsey.

However, this plan was never completed as riders only got as far as Ramsey on their first short lap as conditions worsened all around the circuit.

Thompson was left with no option but to cancel the session on safety grounds as the two Air Med helicopters could not fly due to poor visibility.

On the curtailed lap to Ramsey, Dunlop was fastest to Glen Helen and Ballaugh Bridge, two seconds faster than Hutchinson - the only benefit to competitors in this half-lap was to test suspension and compare a few tweaks made after the opening lap.

Dunlop was upbeat with his speed to date, commenting: "You can't control the weather; it is what it is. We are the only team with a completely new bike to dial in and we've started strongly. It was important that we got that lap and a half, as we are improving all the time with more still to come."

Earlier, the two distinctive Nortons were 13th and 15th fastest with David Johnson nine seconds faster than fellow Australian Josh Brookes, while Guy Martin was 18th fastest at 121.416mph on the new Honda, now fitted with BSB Motec Electronics following John McGuinness' crash at the North West 200.

Dan Kneen, with the fourth fastest time of the night of 125.188mph, was the fastest Superstock machine and he was fastest through the Sulby speed trap at 190mph. Kneen was two and a half seconds clear of Peter Hickman, with Cookstown BE rider Derek Sheils, at 118.480mph, third fastest.

The Supersport class saw Lee Johnston fastest with a speed of 122.160mph on the Padgetts Honda he acquired at the last minute.

Adam McLean was the fastest newcomer with a lap of 106.155mph, some 17 seconds faster than Paul Jordan, whose speed was 104.719mph.

With the forecast tonight not looking good, riders, teams and officials must be pulling their hair out with qualifying laps to undertake and bike set-up to be completed satisfactorily. Officially, there are only two sessions remaining before the opening races scheduled for 11am on Saturday.

Tonight's sessions are scheduled to commence at 6.20pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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